South African trade unionist ordered to apologise for antisemitic hate speech

A senior South African trade unionist called for Jewish lives to be made “hell,” among other incendiary remarks, and eight years later he is being taken to task for his words.

Bongani Masuku, international relations spokesperson for the Congress of South African Trade Unions, was ordered by a Johannesburg court on Thursday to apologise to the South African Jewish community after he was found guilty of hate speech.

The Equality Court in Johannesburg held that Masuku made statements that were “hurtful, harmful, incite harm, and propagate hatred, and amount to hate speech,” during a 2009 public address at Johannesburg’s Wits University and in various written communications.

Judge Seun Moshidi ordered Masuku to make an “unconditional apology” to the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, or SAJBD, the umbrella organisation of the South African Jewish community. He must apologize in the next 30 days or within a time period agreed to by the parties.

The case was brought by the South Africa Human Rights Commission after Masuku’s long failure to comply with its 2009 ruling, which also demanded the trade unionist apologise to the SAJBD.

According to South African News24, Masuku threatened that South African Jews would be targeted due to their pro-Israel stance, that Jewish lives would be made “hell” and that Jewish families suspected of having family members serving in the Israel Defence Forces could be subject to vigilante violence. Masuku also said that pro-Israel Jews should be “forced to leave South Africa.”

Thursday’s judgment was welcomed by the SAJBD, which expressed their wish to see a speedy conclusion to the drawn-out saga.

“The SAJBD particularly welcomes the fact that in terms of the judgment, threats and insults against Jews who support Israel cannot be justified on the alleged basis that such attacks are aimed not at Jews but at ‘Zionists,’ said a statement released by the organisation.

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